Listening For Footsteps

Ever feel like a spiritual ant?

I’ve been swimming in theology lately, neck-deep in books by historical and modern spiritual greats: A.W. Tozer, Dallas Willard and Brother Lawrence. And I’m learning, I’m learning just how far I’ve yet to go, or better said, how deep I’ve yet to fall into Jesus.

Though I’ve called Jesus “Savior” for 28 years and spent time in His Word, attended church, even taught and written Bible studies, apparently, there are infinitely more levels of relationship with this, our Awesome, Amazing, Unparalleled, Personal God. “Who on earth is a god like you?” (Exodus 15:11)

Brother Lawrence’s book, Practicing His Presence, is the most revealing title of the books I’m reading. It sums up the monstrous concept I’m trying to grasp, the overwhelming experience I’m desperate to have.

We’ve had an unusually white winter here in Tennessee and just in the last 48 hours has the sun decided not only to grace us with her light and warmth, but to evoke gratitude in the hearts of us People of the Cross.

“He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold? He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.” Psalm 147:16-18

As I tip-toed over the rivers of melting snow in the church parking lot, I suddenly caught a momentary glimpse of His presence. It was in the world around me, in the collision of His Word in my heart during morning devotions and His beauty in the world around me—His own Word melting the snow, creating the wind, sweeping away the puddles.

It was glorious! In a split second, I knew that I wanted to dwell in this presence constantly. I wondered, “What must I do to feel this all the time?”

I would say this presence lingered, but more accurately, I was rapt. I could not, or would not, walk away. In meditation, and digesting the wisdom of the aforementioned authors, I’m coming to understand how my prayers must change, my reading of God’s Word must change. If I want this new and deeper relationship with my Father, I must approach Him differently, meet Him in a different way and be prepared to walk with Him farther—out of my comfort zone and familiar disciplines.

I want to feel Jesus. I am tired of mere intellectual study and measured application of His Word. I am tired of praying: “Show me what you want me to do! Let me see what you have to say to me in your Word! How does this apply to me? Help me to see myself as you see me!”

I want to ask different questions. I want hear more than an answer, and enough about me already! I need this relationship to go beyond long-distance communication. I want to go beyond words, beyond hearing, to engaging God with all my senses—experiencing, practicing His presence.

I hear Jesus asking me: “What if you look into my eyes and not simply out from them? What if you pray and read the Bible not only for instruction on life and solution to problems, but instead you look into it to see me—stop looking for what I have to say to you and start looking at me personally?

If you listen for me and not only to me, perhaps you will hear me walking right beside you. Instead of only hearing my voice, you will hear my footsteps. “

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Have Yourself a Mature Christmas

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Merry Christmas!

I know you’re accustomed to a video on Mondays, however this week is going to be a little different. (However, I did include a slideshow for you!) It is Christmas time after all. 🙂 A time when all schedules melt like snow off mittens by the fire. A time when best-laid plans morph into better endings through the course of multiple alterations. Do you know what I mean?

I’m typing this post from the study in my sister, Kelsey’s, house. For the moment, her little ones are napping and Kelsey, too, is recuperating from our many Christmas-induced outings to see lights, Santa, the mall, a “Walk to Bethlehem” at a local church and more. So, I’ve sequestered myself and am doing my best to be quiet, which is oddly challenging even for a “mature” adult.

But that’s what we’ve been discussing lately, right? Maturity.

My new Bible study, Beyond Belief: Jesus Saved You, Now What? is due out on June 2, 2015, and though the manuscript is complete, I’m still gathering thoughts and taking notes on what spiritual maturity looks like, how it acts in a variety of social situations and truly, who can claim to have it.

No doubt, the bustle of the holidays has the potential to bring out the most immature side of people. Just read the Black Friday headlines and you’ll recall what I mean. (Or take a peak: Mall Riots, Walmart Riots)

And then of course, there are the arguments about whether to stay at the in-laws, in a hotel or just not to visit at all. There are the squabbles over new toys and tears over the wrong ones.

Those are minor examples, but what about the deep-seated issues, the traditions and even convictions that we hold close?Tempers and immature behavior can erupt, even among Christians, over disagreements about how Christmas is celebrated or observed.These thoughts bring to mind Paul’s words in Colossians 2:16-17:

“So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.”

There are absolutely, no doubt, solid-as-a-rock, nonnegotiables in the Christian faith. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that Christianity is the most exclusive faith there is. No, no one is excluded by virtue of race, gender, age or any other variable known to man. The exclusivity is in Christ and Christ alone. He is the exclusive way to the Father and eternal life. And that truth starts in a stable.

We must stand firm, without wavering on the truth espoused in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,”.

And again, the Gospel began in a stable. We must guard, with all diligence the truth of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection.

BUT, or perhaps I should say and, because this is not a contradiction, but rather a continuation, the overflow of our conviction concerning Jesus:

When it comes to tradition and preferences, whether it’s okay to sing “Frosty the Snowman” or only “Silent Night”, whether it’s okay to put cookies out for Santa Clause or if that will warp our children’s ability to discern fact from truth for the rest of their lives–Christians must respond with maturity.

Does it really matter if Jesus was actually born in December?

Does it matter if there were 3 wise men or 15?

Does it matter?

Does it matter if the whole family is together on Christmas morning or not? Really?

That’s what mature Christians must ask themselves before they take a stand. Does it matter?

The answer is decidedly yes on one thing: “Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.'” John 18:37

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15

Interruption Applied

I’m finally getting somewhere.

Thanks goes to Jen Hatmaker for keeping me up not just one night, but several nights. And thanks, too, for not simply revealing straight away what God’s message was for me in all of this (I guess that’s not fair. How could she know?). Instead she let me sit and percolate the truths in her new book Interrupted. It was a slow process; she saved the best part for last.

It was this quote, near the end of the book, that started stirred me:

“I used to reside exclusively in Christian subculture: I read James Dobson to learn how to parent, studied Dave Ramsey to learn how to budget, sang Third Day for inspiration, went to Women of Faith conferences for encouragement, consulted Christian Coalition voting guides to see how to vote, and read Tim LaHaye for my fiction fix. This was the controlled bubble I lived in with a few hundred of my closest friends…When your running in the middle of a herd of buffalo, everything looks identical. What we see becomes our reality.”

Jen meant this to explain the shallow, sheltered life that many Christians live in, the safe bubble that gives us our “sanctified buffer” such that we hope others see us doing godly things and are impressed by our “awesomeness” to come to Christ without us having to actually associate with the “worldly ones”. Truthfully, I’ve been one of that crowd, part of the herd of buffalo. But that began shifting a few years ago. This time, God is after something different in me.

This morning, a strand of light broke through. God began highlighting similar messages in Scripture and through a few different pastors I’ve been reading and listening to: Steven Furtick, John Piper, John Bloom and Ann Voskamp.

Truth is dawning, albeit slowly, but I’m getting it. It has much to do with maturity–not confusing it with growth, moving beyond the milk of the Word, the testimony of my recovery from anorexia, my easy obedience to Christ and my walk in the Spirit. Moving past the parameters (read: safe bubble), I’ve established, where I know “what works”. 

For all of my life, I’ve sought my “calling”, what I’m supposed to do, and sought to settle in there. My writing has been accepted by publishers and editors–that’s all I have to do now, right–just write about Jesus? Surely, God’s plan was to develop my testimony. I’ve shared it. Now I can sit back as one of the “stories with a happy ending” and continue to follow my calling?

And now we’re full circle back to Interrupted. God’s been interrupting my sleep and peace all week. He’s been overlaying Jen’s testimony on my own life to reveal a personal correction and gentle admonition: Move on. You’re growing, now continue to mature.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19